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Coordination Is a Beautiful Thing . . .

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. . . if and when it exists!

Street Activity

Lurching into its third month, the Ingraham Street construction in Hyattsville continues.

Having put in spanking-new sewer-feeder pipes, which required tearing up the street that had been newly paved two years ago, the WSSC’s contractors are hard at work today. They’ve replaced a lot of the concrete curbing that had been damaged in the last two months. They’re replacing driveway aprons that were messed up (including ours). They plan, by the end of the week, to have a newly paved street for us, curb to curb, as they put it.

Isn’t that nice? I think so.

New Apron 1

What strikes me as bizarre is that the following week, the Washington Gas contractors plan to tear up a chunk of the brand-new street to replace the gas lines damaged last month; these lines serve the house next door and one across the street.

Honest to God. Tearing up a week-old street.

Hyattsville’s mayor, Marc Tartaro, who is a hard-working and intelligent person, responded to some of us in an email that the city has little control over what the public utilities do to our streets. Marc promised to try to get the utilities to coordinate their efforts to avoid having to patch a brand-new road surface, but I got the sense that he may not be able to do it.

Hyattsville Communications Director Abby Sandel with Mayor Marc Tartaro. Photo by Chris Suspect.

City Communications Director Abby Sandel, Mayor Marc Tartaro. Photo: Chris Suspect.

Sometimes you just have to laugh because crying does no good. Updates to follow!

UPDATE; TUESDAY MORNING:

This is good news!

Getting To The Gas

It appears to me that our mayor, Marc Tartaro, has managed to do what I frankly thought was impossible: The contractors are digging on the street this morning, which implies to me that the gas main is being repaired before the street will be totally repaved!

So, our snazzy new street might stay snazzy looking for a while.

Thanks to Marc, his staff, Washington Gas, WSSC and all the contractors! Good work!

FURTHER UPDATE:

As impossible as this is to believe, today’s giant hole in the street is being dug by the WSSC contractors exactly where the Washington Gas folks need their hole to be dug, but the gas line isn’t being replaced today. This particular hole is to repair a sewage line not the gas line.

So, I spoke too soon! The new street will be torn up according to the original schedule, one week after being totally repaved.

Bureaurocracy wins! How could I have doubted it?!?!?

Sheesh!!!

Is Twitter the CB Radio Fad of the 21st Century?

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I suspect so; it seems kinda goofy, too hip by half and annoying. Who really cares what you’re ordering at the coffee shop? I tried it for, I believe, three days.

Many of the folks tweeting around now may not remember how hip Citizen’s Band radios were in the United States around 1976-1978. They were hugely popular in that time before the internet and cell phones.

CB Radio

Perhaps spurred by the C.W. McCall song, Convoy, and certainly spurred by the Smokey and the Bandit movies, folks all over had these radios installed under their car’s dash and sent in their coupon to the U.S. government for a license to use it. Then the hipster had to learn how to talk on the thing, which was an art form. Anything had to be said in a fake Arkansas accent if at all possible.

 

Here’s The Bandit as played by Burt Reynolds:

That's a big 10-4, Snowman!

Very important was your CB radio name, or “handle.” Much thought was given to this important item, much like screen names today. My handle, of course, was “Boy Howdy.”

Much of the CB radio traffic had to do with highway travel and avoiding police while speeding. Some valuable info, like traffic jams, closed roads, speed traps or other things to avoid, was sometimes provided.

I worked with a guy who couldn’t afford air conditioning for his car, when cars often didn’t come with it as standard equipment, or a CB radio. He bought a broken microphone with a coiled cord, rolled up his windows in the Florida heat and drove around hoping to look cool. Didn’t work. He’s probably a super tweeter today.

Some CB enthusiasts had high-power transmitters on their radios; I knew several people with radios so powerful that keying the mike could make a nearby fluorescent tube light up even if it wasn’t connected to a fixture!

After about 1978, all the excitement was over and CB radios were as old-school and unhip as eight-track tape players, multiple gold chains, mullet haircuts and vinyl tops on automobiles.

CB radios famously had their own lingo. Here’s a sample of what was considered cool twenty-five years before LOL, ROTFL, BRB and so on:
10-4: Affirmative. Can also be used to denote agreement (“That’s a big 10-4.”)
10-7: Out of commission
10-20 (more often simply “20”): Location, as in “My 20 is I-95 at exit 13.”
Anklebiters: Children
Bear: Police officer
Bear in the air: Police aircraft
Bear taking pictures: Police with radar
Breaker: Telling other CB users that you’d like to start a transmission on a channel. May be succeeded by the channel number, indicating that anyone may acknowledge (“Breaker one-nine” refers to channel 19, the most widely used among truck drivers).
Clean and green: No police or obstructions ahead
Convoy: Group of three or more truckers in a row, usually exceeding the speed limit
County mountie: Deputy sheriff’s car
Double nickel: The 55mph speed limit
Driver: Polite form of address when you do not know someone’s on-the-air nickname. (See “Handle”)
Drop/put the hammer down: Pressing the accelerator pedal to full speed
Feed the bear: Pay a traffic fine
Handle: Nickname a CB user uses in CB transmissions. Other CB users will refer to the user by this nickname. To say “What’s your handle?” is to ask another user for their CB nickname.
Negatory: No
Reefer: Refrigerated trailer
Smokey: Law officer, particularly state police or highway patrol

UPDATE:
A friend asked me to give some guidance to the CB radio terms in the C.W. McCall Convoy tune that I didn’t already identify, so here goes. I got most of these off Net sites; the plot of the song is that a bunch of truckers are going from California to New Jersey or maybe New York City.

C.W. McCall, by the way, was the fictitious name used by the writer and singer of that song, who was really Omaha ad agency art director, Bill Fries.

10-Roger: Cute form of 10-4
Cab-over:
Style of semi-truck tractor with a flat front due to the cab being over the engine
Catch you on the flip-flop:
“I’ll talk to you on my return trip (on the way back home).”
Chicken coop: Weigh station
Chi-town: Chicago, Illinois
Copy that: Message received
Got a copy?: “Do you hear me?”
Flagtown: Flagstaff, Arizona
Front door: The first vehicle in the line of a convoy
Headin’/huntin’ for bear: Coming up on a police blockade
Jimmy: a GMC truck
Keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your . . . tail: The real phrase is “keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your ass.” A typical CB sign-off that means to drive carefully and watch out for speed traps.
Longhaired friends of Jesus: Hippies
Microbus: Volkswagen Microbus or van. Very popular vehicle among the hippies during the 1960s and 1970s.* Another popular song that mentions the Volkswagen Microbus is Alice’s Restaurant Massacree by Arlo Guthrie.
On the side: A break in the conversation
Rigs:
Semi-truck brands, like Kenworth, Peterbilt or White, or types of semi, like cab-overs or reefers
Shakeytown: Los Angeles, California
Suicide jockey: Driver of a hazardous material truck
Swindle sheets: Truckers’ logs. Truckers have to keep logs of what they were hauling; these “swindle sheets” must be presented to Department Of Transportation officers on request.
Ten-nine (10-9): Repeat message
Tulsa-town: Tulsa, Oklahoma

*My VW Microbus (owned from 1969 to 1974) was a 1963 blue-and-white one with Budweiser-label fabric curtains and quality eight-track sound pushed through a Fender Showman speaker cabinet.
— Jim

FURTHER UPDATE:

This is turning into a mammoth post; there’s more interest than I anticipated!

Now some folks want to know why police, especially state police or troopers, are known as Smokeys or bears. Most of you already know this, but it’s the hat.

WWI Campaign Hat
When Smokey the Bear was chosen as the cartoon mascot of the U.S. Forest Service in 1947, he was drawn wearing a campaign hat. This cool-looking hat, known in the U.S. Army as the 1911 Hat, Service, M1911, is a broad-brimmed hat, usually made of felt, with a high crown, pinched symmetrically at the four corners (the “Montana crease”). The Montana crease was developed so that rain would not collect in the creases of the hat.

Smokey The Bear
These hats are still worn by Army drill instructors, forest rangers and such, but they’re most often seen on state police or highway patrol officers. In Canada, they’re worn by the Mounties.

Mountie
So that’s why, in trucker’s and CB lingo, state police are called Smokeys or bears!

The Best-Looking Car I Never Had

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Jaguar XKEOne of the unintended consequences of the gasoline shortages of the early 1970s was that cars with big engines could be had cheap. For those who weren’t around in those days, gas in most localities could only be purchased on the odd/even system based on your auto tag numbers, and that’s if it was available at all.

Dash looked like an airplane cockpit!

In Naples, a few of us found a way to avoid the lines and didn’t suffer too badly. But across the U.S., folks might spend an entire day in line to get five dollars worth of gas, only to be refused at the end of their tedious wait.

In 1974, I had moved to Tampa and had just met my future wife, Patty. A block or so north of where I worked was a used-car lot that sold high-end cars. Having saved up a few thousand dollars and ready to buy a car, I stopped there and fell in love with a 1967 burgundy Jaguar XKE convertible with the enormous gas-guzzling V-12 engine. Hey; this gas crisis can’t last forever, can it?!?!?!

V12 Jaguar E Type

What a plant!!!

What a plant!!!

I took Patty by the lot to show it to her, and she immediately balked, saying she wouldn’t be seen in such an ugly car. I was astonished; the Jag was gorgeous but so was Patty and I made the obvious choice.

Still needing a car, I bought one of the worst ones I ever owned; a brand-new Dodge Charger Special Edition. What a lousy car that was; a real POS. It also had a huge engine (a hemi, for you motor-heads), but it ate fan belts three at a time, constantly overheated and to top it all off, wasn’t very quick. I drove that bomb for two years, buying fan belts every month (you had to replace all three if one failed) and thinking of that Jag engine that had metal chains instead of rubber belts.

Here’s exactly what my Charger looked like:

Yuch!

Yuch!

A couple of weeks after buying the Charger, Patty, her younger brother Billy and I were going somewhere and an XKE Jag went by us. Patty remarked, “What a beautiful car!”

WHAT?!?!?!? I slammed on the brakes so hard the Charger did a 180 on Busch Boulevard, and asked, “What did you say?!?!” She meekly replied, “I said ‘What a pretty car.’ ”

I was frosted. “Just two weeks ago you stopped me from buying one of those because you said it was so ugly!!!”

Patty burst into tears and said, “You are such a terrible driver; if you drove a car like that Jaguar you’d kill yourself in a week.”

As we sat in that horrible Dodge Charger facing the wrong way on Busch Boulevard,  traffic beeping and honking as it passed us, I had to admit that Patty was correct.

I still wish I had bought that Jag, though!

Jaguar XKE Comin' At Ya

Ya Gotta Start Somewhere!

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Here are some amusing videos from YouTube for your weekend edification and enjoyment. The first shows a musical young man originally from Baltimore, Frank Zappa, on the Steve Allen Show in 1963. Frank plays the bicycle:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9P2V0_p6vE

Zappa In 1959

For those with a limited knowledge of early television, Steve Allen was a former jazz DJ who was the first star host of the Tonight Show. He was a respected musical composer and also guest starred in the Superman newspaper strip as a lookalike for Clark Kent.

Frank seems somewhat shy yet articulate in this amusing sketch. Zappa was later busted in a police sting for making an allegedly pornographic audio tape; he spent several months in jail but had a successful career after that ordeal as the leader of the Mothers of Invention and other brilliant music endeavors.

Next, a 14-year-old Jimmy Page in 1957 plays skiffle on a British television show; the Hofner archtop guitar he plays seems as big as he is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfZ1AEdfd1o

Jimmy is the young man in the dark sweater and white shirt. He went on to play guitar in British music producer Mickie Most’s studio band, backing singles by Herman’s Hermits, Donovan and Brenda Lee. After that, he was in the Yardbirds and, of course, Led Zeppelin.

Young Jimmy Rocks

Onward we go, still in the late 1950s. We meet a pair of young singers working for various low-budget record labels in the New York City area. They recorded a lot of covers and a few of their own songs. Known professionally as Tom and Jerry, they struggled for years before splitting up. The guitar player and songwriter of the duo, Paul Simon, went to England by himself to try his luck. Art Garfunkel, the lead vocalist, stayed in the NYC area and concentrated on his college math studies.

Tom And Jerry

A record producer, Tom Wilson, liked a cut on their very obscure 1964 album, Wednesday Morning 3am, and on his own volition, had electric guitar, bass and drums added to Paul’s simple background guitar on the tune. He released this version in 1965 without the knowledge or approval of Paul or Artie and it became very popular. Columbia Records quickly got the duo back together to capitalize on the unexpected popularity of the song, Sounds of Silence, and Simon and Garfunkel became a best-selling musical team.

Here’s a sweet-sounding 1960 single by Tom and Jerry entitled Just a Boy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGXLjRBcXyo

Hawkaaaaaaaaaa!

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In the 1960s, there were a number of great superhero or adventure comic books featuring groups. There was the Justice League of America, the Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, The Legion of Superheroes, The Doom Patrol, The Teen Titans, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, The Mighty Crusaders and others. I enjoyed all of them, but my favorite was Blackhawk.

Mighty Blackhawk

The Blackhawks first appeared as the lead feature in Military Comics in the the summer of 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor started World War II. They soon had their own comic book. The legendary Will Eisner had a hand in their beginnings; he was either editor or creator, depending on who tells the story. “Hawkaaaa” was their battle cry and they usually ended an adventure flying off the bottom panel of the comic-book page while singing a victory song.

If you want to learn much more about the origin of the Blackhawks, here’s a blog by a fellow Maryland WordPress blogger that is well worth your attention:

http://fourcolorglasses.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/the-origin-of-blackhawk-military-comics-1-august-1941/

Here are the first Military Comics and Blackhawk covers; the first Blackhawk comic was #9 because Quality Comics used their U.S. Postal permit from their cancelled Uncle Sam Quarterly:

First Blackhawk Appearance

First Quality Comics Blackhawk

After WWII ended, Military Comics changed its name to Modern Comics. Here’s the first cover with the new name:

First Issue Modern Comics

All these were issued by the Quality Comics company and the artwork was just wonderful. It was realistic, gritty and the Blackhawks had great uniforms and equipment. The airplanes alone were enough to draw one’s interest, though the stories were compelling; full of nasty men and women who were all defeated by the Blackhawks. The women were unfailingly attractive; and nearly all of them fell in love with Blackhawk, who was the Polish-born leader of the seven-man team.

Please know that the Quality-era Blackhawks weren’t politically correct if viewed with a 21st-century mindset; one of my buddies on a Lincoln history forum has a great quote worth remembering:

The Past is a foreign country . . . they do things differently there”

— L. P. Hartley

Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 7.09.04 PM

In the panel above, the earnest young lady’s dad, who was making earthquakes and avalanches in South America for the benefit of the commie empire, is going to prison for life, but all she can think of is how cool Blackhawk is! Hawkaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

In 1956, Quality Comics sold the rights to their characters to DC Comics, and DC continued Blackhawk. Here’s the first DC issue:

First DC Blackhawk

Note that the comic-book title is singular but the team name is plural. The DC Blackhawk had the same artists and some of the same writers, but instead of fighting Nazis and commies, the Blackhawks were often fighting super villains and monsters. No matter; they were still a great read.

After a couple of years, DC decided to fiddle with the formula and the Blackhawks were clothed in what one commentator has described as uniforms better suiting valet parking attendants:

Blackhawk 199

The stories and art were still okay, but a couple of years later, during a strange comic-book interlude that began with the campy Batman TV show and the James Bond/Man from U.N.C.L.E. fads, the Blackhawks were turned into an embarrassingly inept group of semi-superheroes, with silly names and even sillier costumes. It didn’t last long and to make things worse, some of the big-time DC comics heroes introduced this horrible concept on the front cover!!!

Blackhawk 228

I refuse to show you the new uniforms the Blackhawks wore during this period. They are painful to behold.

After several terrible issues, the decision was made by the DC honchos to cancel the title.  At the same time, a talented artist and editor, Dick Giordano, came to DC from the Charlton Comics company. He loved the original Blackhawks and when he took over the comic, he tried for two issues to bring back the original concept, including the black leather uniforms. It was too little too late. Blackhawk was cancelled in 1968.

DC has had a few revivals of Blackhawk since then but they never seemed to catch on, for whatever reason.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because for several years I have had an idea for a great Blackhawks revival! It would be composed of a group of young black men and women, and I think the concept would be interesting and fun. I’ve given this a lot of thought and may well put it all down on paper one day and send it off to DC Comics.

Hawkaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

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